Max Fisher explains the role social media plays in affecting our lives. The New York Times investigative reporter discusses the impact of how it is drastically changing the way we think. He has witnessed society bursting into violent behaviors, which he believes are linked to social platforms.
Online social activity is already an internationally addictive problem and has changed modern society. Despite it being previously seen as a system that would bring ‘freedom’ and revolution, it has elevated crisis and ‘hate’ speech. Find out more in 5 Key Points on The Addictive Impact of Social Media!
1. Driven by Engagement
Platforms on social platforms are often driven by sales, trying to get users to click on more links and posts. While social media tends to target our interests and needs, it has made these platforms incredibly powerful at bringing out our instinctual and suppressed needs. While this demonstrates the frailties in our nature, it drives us to engage with these systems.
Many people believe they are separate from this dystopian social media world, and they can overcome their online social habits. Yet its influence is so insidiously invisible that we hardly think it affects us.
While we believe we can overcome social media’s negative influences, we can overlook the damage it’s ‘doing’ to us. Online social platforms tend to “smuggle its choices” through our communities in viral posts. These posts can feel somewhat neutral, but they can affect how you think and feel, more than you probably expect.
2. Algorithms are Controlling Choices
Each algorithm post is selected for engagement to keep us engaged. We can’t change our equations with the algorithms, and the companies were built on these financial models. Initially, businesses could rely on gaining customers to websites, but now many of these businesses rely on competing for our attention on social media. It has made many companies rely on algorithms to drive sales for them.
While we learn to ignore many of these ‘advertisements’, the algorithms continue to grow their understanding of our instinctual needs. We may continue to be shown countless advertisements based on our current moods, wants, or needs, which feeds the algorithms as we stay on social media.
3. Exaggerated Feelings of Connection
Many social media platforms were designed to be chemically addictive, exploiting the dopamine secretion in the brain. Social media sites’ algorithms were modeled on casino slot games. The feedback we gain on social media has exaggerated our sensations linked to connection.
Rather than experiencing feedback from five people in ‘real-time’, social media can offer a variety of input from twenty or more people, sometimes hundreds. While social media is convenient, it can serve as an instant connection. But the dopamine boost often doesn’t fulfill our needs, and we can be left feeling actually more isolated. Those feelings of isolation make us want to revisit social media platforms like Facebook again, and again…
4. Social Media can Change Behaviors
Social apps can lure people into its entrapment, and although individuals may think they are not under its spell, it’s a subtle addiction. Slowly it’s changing people’s minds, which affects their behaviors.
Researchers have found in a Twitter experiment that certain words did not affect the public. But moral and emotional words had a 20% increase in ‘tweets’ with phrases containing them. ‘Outrages’ often triggered people on social to repost links, polls, videos, or posts. While these outrages in social posts happened online, gradually, these outrages affected how their ‘individual emotional balance’ changed.
5. Social Media Potentially Affects Identity
Online social activity focuses on identity but has a subtle negative impact, and it chooses to show ten unfavorable videos rather than one long one. Its intention is to keep its users online for as long as possible. Social platforms have the potential to ‘make or break’ communities. As ‘posts’ or ‘threads’ lead to other posts, they can profoundly influence individuals within those communities.
While we may think we are not affected by communities, social media adds to the opportunity for groups to gain our attention. Various social media communities focus on identities, although we may see ourselves as individuals. However, the communities that social media can reach may eventually trigger our responses. Without realizing it, we have become a part of those communities by adding our responses.
How can we choose to spend our time on social platforms by knowing we are a ‘product’ of those apps? We can begin setting up limitations for ourselves, enforcing healthier boundaries. Social platforms are a system designed for users but not intended to help our insecurities. It acts as a convenience for identities to respond to algorithms. Can we fully trust systems that manipulate us into thinking we are isolated?